We had a free day today in the town of Baños. Not named after what you might think (toilets), Baños is called such for its warm thermal baths that are filled with heated water from the Volcan Tungurahua. After several days of riding, we had a great night’s rest – so good, actually, that we didn’t hear the windows rattle as Tungurahua let off an explosion early this morning. Arie informed us of the event when we ran into him before breakfast as we were heading out to enjoy a pre-breakfast soak in one of the nearby thermal baths. The baths are outdoors and the one we visited included several pools with varying degrees of hot/warm/or cold pools. The water isn’t very inviting at first look – it’s a yellowish brown – but we donned our bathing suits and waded in despite the murky color. And it felt delightful. We soaked in the largest pool for a few minutes, surrounded by local residents and travelers alike, and then we moved over the the hotter pool, which was smaller and less crowded. It took a few seconds to get fully in because the water was so hot, but once submerged, it felt blissful. Like an outdoor jacuzzi, but without the bubbles. When we felt sufficiently soaked through and rubbery, we headed back to the hotel for some coffee and breakfast. Since we didn’t have to get on the bikes or drive to our next destination, C and I took the morning easy, catching up on emails and such.
Then we headed out to get some sandwiches to bring along on a hike that skirts the town and climbs a steep mountain up to a lookout. So much for a day off, haha. We started off walking through town and then turned onto a side road which led to a dirt path up the side of a mountain. We gained elevation surprisingly quickly and soon we were gazing down on the bustling town of Baños, nestled in a valley and surround by tall, green mountains. The path led us up to a spot called Bellavista where we were rewarded with a gorgeous view.
From there we backtracked a few hundred meters and turned onto another steep dirt trail that took us even higher up to the luxury hotel of Hosteria Luna Runtun, situated on the edge of the escarpment. We just glanced through the gates and saw a beautifully manicured resort with small white-washed cabañas and trees decorating the grounds. We continued on down the trail and stopped at a nice overlook for lunch. The trail led us slowly down to the Mirador del Virgin, a giant statue that watches over the town of Baños. There were stairs leading down from the Virgin, which brought us down from the mountainside and back into town where it was a 10 minute walk back to our hotel.
The whole loop took us about 2 1/2 hours (our guidebook said it would take 4) and even though we didn’t see the the top of Volcan Tungurahua, we still have great views of the valley.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a great little specialty food store where we bought some nuts and seeds to make trail mix and 100% dark chocolate. Yum! Tomorrow we get back on the bikes and head into the Amazon!